Building a Log Cabin in One Man’s Wilderness

Comments   2   Date Arrow  December 26, 2023 at 1:56pm   User  by Mark Willis

The memory of Dick Proenneke has been  a welcome presence this Christmas. I gave Brendan a copy of One Man’s Wilderness, and on Christmas Eve, Ms. M and I watched the PBS documentary based on the book and Dick’s vintage film footage. I’m fascinated by the solo process he developed for documenting his cabin-building in the Alaskan wilderness. Remember, this was forty years ago, long before YouTube enabled anyone with a cell phone camera to become DYI documentarians.

Dick’s footage of brown bears, caribou, and a wolverine triggered stories of my own youthful journey in the Brooks Range, a year after the book was published, before the first road was built across the mountains. That’s where I encountered a wolverine for the first and only time. It was excavating a steep stream bank on an unnamed tributary of the Glacier River, looking for a lunch of  lemmings. The wolverine cared not a wit for three curious hikers, even though one carried a 30.40 rifle.

As the video below attests, Dick Proenneke’s cabin still stands in Lake Clark National Park. It’s a simple wilderness shrine to which I someday want to journey.

Tagged   memoir


  • #1.   Sara H 12.26.2009

    I didn’t know about this man! Watching him build this cabin, I can see my dad doing similar things that all men used to know how to do. My dad built our house himself, in the 20s - he was born in 1892 and my mom in 1903. This brings back their world in the countryside of Virginia, where I grew up. Of course, it wasn’t a log cabin. But there were log cabins in our area, heated by wood stoves or fireplaces. A vanished world now. Worth remembering. Thanks.

  • #2.   Mark Willis 12.26.2009

    Dick P. was a carpenter’s carpenter, for sure.

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